The Foundation of the Unconscious: Schelling, Freud and the Birth of the Modern Psyche
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The unconscious, cornerstone of psychoanalysis, was a key twentieth-century concept and retains an enormous influence on psychological and cultural theory. Yet there is a surprising lack of investigation into its roots in the critical philosophy and Romantic psychology of the early nineteenth century, long before Freud. Why did the unconscious emerge as such a powerful idea? And why at that point? This interdisciplinary study breaks new ground in tracing the emergence of the unconscious through the work of philosopher Friedrich Schelling, examining his association with Romantic psychologists, anthropologists and theorists of nature. It sets out the beginnings of a neglected tradition of the unconscious psyche and proposes a compelling new argument: that the unconscious develops from the modern need to theorise individual independence. The book assesses the impact of this tradition on psychoanalysis itself, re-reading Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams in the light of broader post-Enlightenment attempts to theorise individuality.
Addresses to the German Nation in occupied Berlin, in the wake of the battle of Jena. But politics is there even at the heart of his attempt to deduce transcendentally the various functions of knowing and willing. In 1795 Fichte observed to Jens Baggesen that his system belonged to the French nation: ‘It is the first system of freedom. Just as that nation has torn away the external chains of man, my system tears away the chains of the thing-in-itself, or external causes, that still shackles him
Engels, who had joined a study circle of Berlin Young Hegelians nicknamed ‘The Free’, responded with two scathing pamphlets – Schelling, Philosopher in Christ and Schelling and Revelation – which advised Germany to ‘turn away from this waste of time’.9 The rejection of Schelling’s philosophy by this most famous generation of radical intellectuals is well known – a spectacular downfall to match the narrative of his brilliant emergence as the new star of the critical philosophy in the mid 1790s,
entity to solicit its being which exists only in potentia. ‘Most people lack the requisite humility’ to conceive of the beginning, wrote Schelling in the Ages of the World: ‘they wish to begin everything straight away with the highest concepts and bypass the mute beginnings of all life.’96 Schelling’s approach to the self-effacement of the absolute – an absolute which goes missing at the very point of agency – again bears a marked similarity to the theorisation of identity in a later
demonstration of 31 Letter to Schelling, November 1808, Briefe und Dokumente, vol. III, 553. 32 Ibid., 584. 33 Letter to Schubert, 28 April 1809. Ibid., 599. 34 Schelling, Sämmtliche Werke, vol. VIII, 362, fn. 90. 35 Letter to Schelling, mid December 1807, Briefe und Dokumente, vol. III, 477. The land that time forgot 147 the ‘true’ relation between the soul and knowledge. Egyptian priests retained only the fragments of an old natural wisdom, but this wisdom was not intended to be
psychoanalytic concepts, within psychoanalytic historiography, must be made for Henri Ellenberger’s landmark volume on the Discovery of the Unconscious, which is still unsurpassed in its historical range and the multiplicity of perspectives it sheds on the emergence of what he identifies as ‘dynamic psychiatry’ or ‘dynamic psychotherapy’. That book traces the origins of such dynamic theories of mental life ‘through a long line of ancestors and forerunners’, going all the way back to the